The Wire Final Season

Week 2: Give Me More Clay Davis!
Talking television.
Jan. 14 2008 11:01 AM

The Wire Final Season

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Dear David,

I appreciate your deep morals, I really do. But still: Your post was fairly inoffensive and had the benefit of being true. So, no guilt!

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Like you, I love the expression "swindled by bigamists." David Simon and his writers love words, and I love them for loving words. That said, I thought the scene in which this marvelous line was embedded, on the loading dock, was forced and ostentatious and heavy-handed. Why not just have St. City Editor say, "Man, Baltimore hacks are so witty and hard-boiled and yet they have hearts of gold, all except that yuppie shit who is obviously going to Jayson Blair our newspaper half to death."

I was so busy hating the Baltimore Sun story line that I neglected to notice what you picked up: that it's not only the reporters who are ardently speechifying. I don't mind speeches—give me more Clay Davis any day! It's the moralizing that's getting me. Why do they have to tell us that the lives of black men are cast away by our society? Isn't that the whole point of this show? We get it. We've been watching for years.

These occasional bumps in the writing are not so noticeable in most cases because the acting is so good—otherworldly good. Have you noticed that Isiah Whitlock Jr., as the febrile and corrupt Clay Davis, is a genius? One question I'm always left with after an episode of The Wire is this: Where will these brilliant African-Americans actors go when The Wire is finished? Maybe this is why David Simon is so pissed—he knows that Hollywood hasn't figured out how to showcase large quantities of black talent and fears for the careers of his cast. I can't think of another cast of such astonishingly good unknown actors, except maybe for The Sopranos—though if you watch Goodfellas carefully, you'll see that they're all there. (Weirdly, Isiah Whitlock Jr. was also in Goodfellas.) So, let's have a moment of appreciation for Lance Reddick, who plays Cedric Daniels; and our mutual favorite, Wendell Pierce, who plays Bunk; and, of course, Clarke Peters, who plays Lester Freamon; and Andre Royo as Bubbles; and Jamie Hector as Marlo Stanfield; and, for his voice alone, Anwan Glover as Slim Charles. The list goes on and on. Every so often, the writing fails, but the cast never does.

As Sarah Silverman says, I have a dream, too: My dream is that some savvy Shakespeare company hires, en masse, the cast of The Wire for what would be just a thrilling Julius Caesar. Wood Harris, who plays Avon Barksdale, has already appeared in Troilus and Cressida. Just imagine him as Brutus.

Jeffrey Goldberg is a national correspondent for the Atlantic and the author of Prisoners: A Story of Friendship and Terror.